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Indra Devi & Ors vs. Bagada Ram & Anr dated 2010-08-18

                              REORTABLE

 

                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                     CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 

                     CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1508 OF 2004

 
 
Indra Devi & Ors.                                              Appellants
 
                                  Versus
 

Bagada Ram & Anr.                                              Respondents

 
 
 
                               JUDGMENT
 
 
 
AFTAB ALAM,J.
 
 

1.    This is the claimant's appeal from a motor accident claim case.

 

2.    On March 31, 1999, one Ramniwas while going on a motorcycle

 

dashed against the rear side of a truck that was headed in the same direction

 

as the motorcycle. Ramniwas died in the accident. His heirs and legal

 

representatives, the appellants before this Court, moved the MACT, Sojat,

 

Branch Jaitaran, District Pali in MACT Case No.59 of 1999 against the

 

owner of the truck and its insurer, the New India Assurance Company Ltd.

 

for compensation in terms of section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

 

In course of the proceedings, the appellants claimed no fault compensation

 

under section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act which was granted to them by


                                       2
 
 

the Tribunal and the compensation amount was duly paid by the insurance

 

company. In the main proceeding, however, the Tribunal came to find and

 

hold that insofar as the accident is concerned there was no lapse on the part

 

of the driver of the truck nor was it due to any mechanical fault in the truck.

 

The accident was caused due to the careless and negligent driving of the

 

deceased himself. On that finding, the Tribunal naturally rejected the claim

 

of compensation on the principle of fault. But it did not stop there and went

 

on to hold that the insurance company was entitled to the refund of the

 

amount of no fault compensation along with interest @ 9% p.a. In the

 

operative portion of the judgment, the tribunal ordered as follows:

 

      "According to the above analysis, this claim is dismissed. An

      amount of Rs.50,000/- has been given to the applicants by The

      New India Assurance Co. Ltd. as an interim relief and The

      India Assurance Co. Ltd. will be entitled to have it back with

      9% interest p.a."

 

3.    The claimants took the matter to the High Court in appeal (Civil

 

Miscellaneous Appeal No.323 of 2002). The High Court dismissed the

 
appeal by judgment and order dated August 20, 2002. The High Court
 

agreed with the Tribunal's finding that the deceased alone was responsible

 

for the accident and hence, the claimants were not entitled to any

 

compensation. Unfortunately, the High Court did not address the issue of no

 

fault compensation and overlooked the direction of the Tribunal for refund

 

of the amount of interim compensation alongwith interest @ 9% p.a.


                                       3
 
 

4.    The claimants are now before this Court aggrieved by the direction to

 

refund the amount of interim compensation to the insurance company

 
alongwith interest.
 

5.    The impugned direction is clearly erroneous and unsustainable in law.

 

The Tribunal has completely failed to realize the true nature and character of

 

the compensation in terms of section 140 of the Act. The marginal heading

 

to section 140 describes it as based `on the principle of no fault'. As the

 

expression `no fault' suggests the compensation under section 140 is

 

regardless of any wrongful act, neglect or default of the person in respect of

 
whose death the claim is made.
 

6.    We have examined the nature of the `no fault compensation' payable

 

under section 140 of the Act in Eshwarappa @ Maheshwarappa and Anr.

 

vs. C.S. Gurushanthappa and Anr. (Civil Appeal No.7049 of 2002), the

 

judgment in which is pronounced today. We, therefore, do not wish to

 

elaborate the point further. Suffice to say that in view of our judgment in

 

Civil Appeal No.7049 of 2002, the Tribunal was patently in error, in

 

directing for the refund of the amount of `no fault compensation' already

 

paid to the claimants, to the insurance company. The High Court was

 

equally in error in missing out this grave mistake in the judgment and order

 
passed by the Tribunal and not setting it right.
 

7.    The present appeal must, therefore, be allowed. The order of the

 

Tribunal insofar as it permits the insurance company (respondent no.2) to


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recover the amount of interim compensation alongwith the interest from the

 
claimants/appellants is set aside.
 

8.    In the result the appeal is allowed but with no order as to costs.

 
 
 
 

                                                  .....................................J

                                                  (AFTAB ALAM)

 
 
 

                                                .......................................J

                                                   (R.M. LODHA)

New Delhi
August 18, 2010.

 


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